If New York Mets fans were expecting a big Christmas present this year, they woke up Friday disappointed. Not only did the team not make a big signing, they also saw postseason hero Daniel Murphy join an NL East rival.
It looks as though Alejandro De Aza, who reports say inked a one-year deal for $5.75 million on Dec. 23, will be the last addition before spring training. De Aza batted .261 with seven homers and 32 RBI in 264 at-bats for three teams and will play a complementary role. Although he’s a better corner outfielder, the lefty-hitting De Aza is expected to platoon with Juan Lagares in center field this season.
Any hopes that the sudden retirement of Michael Cuddyer would free up money to sign late-season hero Yoenis Cespedes, or maybe even Justin Upton, are not likely to come true. Jon Heyman reported on CBSsports.com that the talks between the Cespedes and the Mets never got serious and were in the two- or three-year range for the slugger, who in 57 games with the team had had 17 home runs and 44 RBI for a .942 OPS. Cespedes is hoping for a six-year deal, according to Major League Trade Rumors’ Tim Dierkes, somewhere in the $140 million range. Heyman says the Giants, Angels, Tigers and White Sox have all expressed interest in the 30-year-old Cuban, who has also played for Oakland, Detroit and the Red Sox.
It seems the Mets will be content to go with the Lagares/De Aza platoon in center, flanked by rookie Michael Conforto in left and Curtis Granderson in right. According to ESPN.com’s Adam Rubin, the Mets’ payroll stands at $106.5 million.
And if proof was needed to show that the 2016 Mets will be a different group than the squad which made an unexpected run to the World Series, it was the Washington Nationals signing NL Championship MVP Murphy. Reports said the deal will be three years for $37.5 million. It ends a seven-year run for Murphy in New York, as he leaves with a .288 career batting average and a .755 OPS. But the trade for Neil Walker during the winter meetings made the need for Murphy only a sentimental one. Walker will replace Murphy at second and most likely bat third in the lineup.
The Mets will have a different look on offense next season, but have the same starting pitchers, including a full season of Steven Matz and the return of Zack Wheeler. That might be enough to keep them in the race long enough that they could acquire the 2016 version of Cespedes.
It’s like getting a gift card; Mets fans might have to wait until July to see what the real present will be.